Monday, October 25, 2010

From one beauty to the next



I'm taking a break from Final Fantasy XIII and am instead spending spending my evenings with a Wii game. One might think that this move from what is arguably the best looking PS3/360 game to a consoles which hardware is the very opposite of cutting edge, would result in a drastic step down in terms of graphics. But not so, since the game disc that is spinning in my Wii is no other then the stunning 2D beauty Muramasa: The Demon Blade.

The art in Muramasa and the fantastic backgrounds in particular are so mindblowingly beautiful I am even tempted to say it's graphics are better (in terms of looks, not polygons of course) then those of FFXIII.

I have said this before but Muramasa makes this point crystal clear, just because a game is for the Wii doesn't mean it can't look fantastic. It is just a question of picking the right art style, playing to the systems strengths. A game like Muramasa is probably only possible on the Wii. My understanding of the costs associated with producing two dimensional art of the type Vanillaware is famous for makes it near impossible to develop for a high definition system. So it's the perfect example of picking the art style that fits the system.

I remember a few years ago there was a lot of talk about porting the Unreal Engine to Wii. This really was the dumbest idea ever. This was around the time Gears of War was coming out and everyone was excited about how good it looked. At the same time Nintendo were showing off Super Mario Galaxy. I would argue that Mario Galaxy looks just as good as Gears of War, they only have very different graphical styles. Galaxy was as optimized for the Wii as any game could be and it therefore looked fantastic. A Gears port if even possible would have looked like absolute shit on the Wii. Since then a few developers seems to have gotten this and Nintendo is not the only company delivering Wii games with mouth watering graphics. Looking at Muramasa Vanillaware might even have surpassed them in that arena.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wait didn't I fight this androgynies bad guy last Thursday?



A friend of mine sent me this charming rpg chart ^(click it for a larger and more readable version). I'm sure it has made the rounds around the internet for a while but this is the first time it has passed by my eyes. It got me thinking how I used to play Japanese role playing games for their story, but how I now look at the story more as an annoyance in the way of my grinding. The more of them I play the more apparent it becomes that the developers are just pulling some random story clich├ęs and character stereotypes out of some communal hat all rpg developers seem to be passing around. Putting them together in a more or less coherent way and calling it a day.

There is this completionist nature to me that forces me to carefully read all game dialog and make sure that I talk to ever last villager but I wouldn't say that I really enjoy it. What keeps me coming back to this silly genre which hasn't evolved for the past decade or two is that it allows me to turn off my brain, hit attack over and over again and slowly watch my characters grew in strength. There is something both relaxing and oddly satisfying in this highly repetitive exorcise.

When I come upon a town or other plot point I don't find it intriguing that the story is about to progress, instead I get almost annoyed that I have to turn my brain back on and put my leveling on hold to be spoon fed a story that is so predictable and stereotypical that I really could have done without it.

This isn't a call for less formulaic and more original storytelling in role playing games. I just want less of it, much less. Give me a short setup, some silly reason why the androgynies bad guy wants to destroy the world and then let me level up my party without interruptions.